How to get back into work after a long illness
In order to return to work as gently and healthily as possible after a lengthy illness, it often takes phased plans like the so-called Hamburg model.
The job portal Indeed has summarized the most important information about the process of a reintegration plan for you.
Work can help you get back on your feet, says psychotherapist. Still, you should be careful not to take on too much right away.
After a prolonged illness, many sufferers face the same challenge. Yes, you can return to work – but how do you do it without taking on too much and getting sick again straight away?? This question is becoming increasingly acute at a time when not only physical ailments, but also an increasing number of mental illnesses, are causing people to be unable to work for several weeks at a time.
According to data from the Psychreport 2020 published by the DAK health insurance company, the number of days absent from work due to mental illness in Germany has risen by 56 percent compared to 2010. Because of the stigma that still surrounds the subject area of mental health, returning to work after an extended absence often involves not only great effort but also a certain sense of shame.
But for mental illnesses in particular, getting back to work can even help with recovery, experts say – because work gives some sufferers support, structure and the compassion of colleagues. Psychotherapist Franziska von Piechowski confirmed as much in an earlier interview with Business Insider. "Quite often the work has something stabilizing for my patients," said von Piechowski da. "It is then something regular, something constant, something where, in the best case, they also receive appreciation and recognition."
The prerequisite for a healthy form of reintegration is that it should take place gradually and in constant consultation with the doctor and the employer. To ensure this, there are various reintegration models and catalogs of measures that provide employers and employees with a kind of roadmap. Such a plan is, for example, the so-called Hamburg model. The job portal Indeed has summarized the most important information for you on this topic.
What is the Hamburg Model?
The Hamburg Model includes a step-by-step plan which you develop together with your doctor and which determines how the reintegration should proceed. This procedure is intended to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed immediately upon your return or your employer from demanding too much of you. By gradually taking over parts of your responsibilities again, you will still be available to the company as an employee – and there will be no financial disadvantages for you or your employer.
In addition to the Hamburg model, there is also the option of returning to work in the course of so-called company integration management (BEM). In contrast to the former, BEM is always defined by law – so you also have a right to it if you are privately insured.
In addition, within the framework of a BEM, measures are also determined which can be implemented in relation to your field of activity and your workplace in order to prevent a renewed illness. The BEM has a preventive character, while the Hamburg Model is mainly applied acutely to facilitate the return to work.
Who is eligible for the Hamburg Model?
The Hamburg model applies to a wide range of illnesses. This applies to both physical illnesses, such as back pain, and mental illnesses. In case of doubt, discuss with your doctor whether you are eligible for the plan. It is important that you have been absent due to illness for at least six weeks. It does not matter whether you have a full-time or part-time job. You should also keep in mind that you must still be officially considered unfit for work at the start of reintegration.
If you have statutory health insurance, you are entitled to reintegration after a lengthy illness. For privately insured persons, on the other hand, the Hamburg model is voluntary and must first be applied for with the respective health insurance company. Nevertheless, it is approved in most cases.
Finally, together with your doctor, you draw up a step-by-step plan for the Hamburg Model. Once your employer has agreed to this, you submit the step-by-step plan to your health insurance company. After that you can start with the integration.
How the Hamburg model works
The step plan varies from person to person and is adapted to your individual situation. It states when you will start the integration and predicts when it will be completed. The duration depends on your personal circumstances and can be between six weeks and six months.
In addition to the expected duration, it will also be determined which activities you can expect to perform at what time and to what extent. For example, it is conceivable that you initially work fewer days per week or fewer hours per day than before the illness. Or you may initially take over only a certain part of your former area of responsibility.
If all parties involved are satisfied with the step-by-step plan, the workload and the scope of activities can then be increased step by step until you are finally back at the level you were able to perform before the illness.
In addition, the step-by-step plan usually defines rights and reasons that allow all parties to interrupt the continuation of the plan at any time. If doctor or employee have further ideas and wishes, which the employee could implement for an easier re-entry, you should likewise agree on these in advance and put them in writing.
Should you feel ready to do so, it may be worth talking to your employer about the circumstances of your inability to work at the latest when you return to work. "Employers are much more social and responsible than their reputation suggests," said Berlin-based labor lawyer Nicolas Roggel in an interview with Business Insider. Every employer they deal with knows that happy and healthy employees are better employees. "And every employer also knows that they have to do something about it."A controlled reintegration plan can be the first step.